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The 10 best small cities for educated millennials

The 10 best small cities for educated millennials
StrategyStrategy4 min read

Vkulikov, Wikimedia CommonsWhile big cities such as New York and Washington, DC often appeal to educated millennials, a number of small cities also have a lot to offer young people.

In a new report on the top destinations for young college graduates, the American Institute for Economic Research ranks cities based on economic and quality-of-life factors that are important to young people.

The top three factors include: high density of people with a college degree, a low unemployment rate, and the ability to get around the city without a car.

The other factors included: average salary, cost of rent, competition for jobs, bars and restaurants per 1,000 residents, and racial and ethnic diversity.

Iowa City, Iowa topped the list of most desirable "smallest" cities for educated young people. The report defined young educated people as those 22 to 35 years old with at least a bachelor's degree, and it defined "smallest" cities as those having metro areas with fewer than 250,000 residents.

Here are the top 10 smallest cities for young educated people:

10. College Station, Texas

college station texasJoe Mitchell/Getty

Metro area population: 202,000. Ranked the number two best small place for business and careers by Forbes, College Station offers an abundance of research opportunities, with ongoing projects funded by NASA, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Office of Naval Research.

It's also home to the main campus of Texas A&M University and the George Bush Presidential Library. 

9. State College, Pennsylvania

state college paPatrick Smith/Getty

Metro area population: 155,000. State College offers a thriving social scene, with dozens of restaurants and bars concentrated in the downtown area. Additionally, young professionals earn an average salary of $46,399, while only paying about $940 a month for housing. 

8. Burlington, Vermont

Burlington, VTWikimedia Commons

Metro area population: 215,000. Located on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, the sweeping views of the Adirondack Mountains are unrivaled, and the biking paths, sailboat rentals, and strong restaurant scene are particularly attractive to young folks.  

Burlington is also home to the first Ben & Jerry's, founded in 1978.

7. Bloomington, Illinois

1024px Bloomington,_IL_city_hall_2Daniel Schwen/Wikicommons

Metro area population: 175,000. You can't beat Bloomington's ample green space. The small metro boasts over 40 parks and three golf course, along with natural parks such as the Miller Park Zoo and the Constitution Trail. 

Another perk: rent averages out to $889 per month, making it one of the most affordable places to live.

6. Columbia, Missouri


Metro area population: 171,000. Ranked the sixth best small town for business and careers by Forbes, Columbia's economy is dominated by education, healthcare, and the insurance industry. The University of Missouri is the towns largest employer.

5. Bloomington, Indiana

Bloomington INStevenW, Flickr

Metro area population: 141,000. Surrounded by several higher learning institutions, such as Indiana University, Bloomington has an obvious allure for young professionals with its thriving music scene. Every fall, the world-renowned Lotus World Music and Arts Festival takes place in the streets of Bloomington, where artists from all over the world perform. 

4. Champaign-Urbana, Illinois

Champaign Urbana ILstantontcady, Flickr

Metro area population: 205,000. While surrounded by farm communities, Champaign-Urbana's proximity to the University of Illinois and its abundance of tech startup companies makes it a popular destination for millennials. The average young graduate can earn $47,121 a year and live comfortably for about $815 a month. 

3. Lawrence, Kansas

Lawrence KSLauren Wellicome, Flickr

Metro area population: 114,000. Home to University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University, the college town is known for its lively music and art scene, filled with restaurants, bars, galleries, shops, and music venues. 

Also, the paychecks in Lawrence are larger than most small metros, averaging out to $51,732 for educated people between 22 and 35.

2. Ithaca, NY


Metro area population: 104,000. Ithaca has been named the best college town in the past; it's also a great town for young graduates. Surrounded by strong schools such as Ivy League institution Cornell University and Ithaca College, it's no surprise that Ithaca would appeal to young, educated people.

The college town offers several unique festivals, such as the Apple Festival in the fall, Chili Fest in February, and the Circus Eccentrithaca.

1. Iowa City, Iowa

Iowa CityVkulikov, Wikimedia Commons

Metro area population: 139,000. The top-ranked small city, home to the University of Iowa, offers young graduates a growing technology corridor, low rents, and a diverse population.

Over half of the population has a bachelor's degree (51.5%), only 3% of the labor force is unemployed, and recent grads earn an average of $42,511 per year.